Is AP® English Language Hard? | (2023)

Did you know that you can take some of your time in high school to earn college credits? Well, it’s true. Some of your efforts in high school can lead to college credit. How does it work? If you take the AP® English Language and Composition class in high school and pass the corresponding exam, then you can earn credits towards your degree. Not only that, but you will be able to improve your English language skills too.

Through the AP® English class, you will be able to strengthen your writing skills while expanding your vocabulary. You will also learn to read more critically. With a focus on nonfiction written works, you will explore subjects that you can relate to current events or other classwork. Covered materials will include an exploration of diverse styles from multiple time periods. A variety of authors will be examined to present you with a wider range of composition styles and writing techniques.

As you can see, AP® English just builds on the foundation that you have built throughout your time in school. It is based on improving your current capabilities to reach a college level, especially when creating works of an analytical or argumentative style.

Course Overview

The AP® English Language and Composition provides an in-depth study of particular nonfiction texts. The focus is placed on rhetorical analysis and aims to improve your writing skills in the areas of evidence-centered analytic or persuasive pieces.

Is AP® English Language Hard? | (1)

Reading and writing assignments will be designed to work in conjunction. This allows the key concepts to be explored from both directions, with the student functioning as the reader and the writer throughout the course. Often, the course will include the analysis of current events which allows the students to explore the sentiment of the time and how argumentative writing functions today.

The examination of historical texts will also be reviewed to understand the core issues of the times. Critical analysis will allow you to examine the works based on their original context, as well as through the context of today.

Writing assignments will allow you to explore how you structure responses to issues or concepts. Exploration of formal writing styles will be included, as well as an introduction to various nonfiction genres. The impact of word choice when conveying a perspective will be examined including how individual selections increase or decrease the overall effectiveness of the piece.

Academic Challenges in AP® English Language

Even though writing is a fundamental component of the course, AP® English’s difficulty resides in the reading level required. You will need to be able to employ critical thinking skills to answer fundamental questions regarding the composition of specified works. Further, you will have to be able to integrate the concepts behind these core questions into your written works.

While there are no prerequisites for participating in an AP® English Language course, certain previous experience will make it less challenging. Having a background in rhetorical analysis and formal argument structures will serve as a foundation for the course. Often, these concepts are introduced before a student reaches high school, so you are likely to have the necessary understandings to perform well.

There are no prescribed texts for the course which mean that the texts AP® English reviews are not standardized for all students. While you may focus on certain written works, those taking the course in a different school may work with other pieces of text. However, the CollegeBoard does recommend that teachers choose pieces that are designed to challenge their students’ abilities. Additionally, the selected works should spark discussions regarding multiple potential points of view and their associated stances.

Based on the recommended six to eight hours of activity being dedicated to the subject on a weekly basis, you will likely have a substantial amount of homework. If you have a heavy course load, this could make the class more challenging due to the time expectations.

By the Numbers

All AP® exams are based on a standard scoring system. The scores can range from one to five, with one being the lowest score and five being the highest score available. A minimum score of 3 is required to qualify for college credit at most accredited educational institutions.

The most recent CollegeBoard report, based on data from the year 2013, shows the success rate of students who took the AP® English Language and Composition exam as 57.6 percent. Here is the breakdown of the passing scores:




Based on the most common progression through English courses in high school, the majority of test-takers are in their junior year. This is the point in your education where you will have enough exposure to understand the more advanced concepts, allowing you a higher chance of success than in previous years. Some students attempt the test as sophomores and seniors, though this is less common.

Exam Structure

The CollegeBoard has standardized the structure of the AP® English exam. Section I is multiple choice and accounts for 45 percent of the total exam score. You are given one hour to complete this section and are presented with anywhere from 52 to 55 questions. Many of the questions are accompanied by excerpts from selected nonfiction works. This allows you to refer to the piece while responding to all related questions.

Section II focuses on your writing ability. There will be three free-response questions, also referred to as essay questions. You will be given two hours and 15 minutes to complete this section. 15 minutes of that time is a dedicated reading period. Your responses in this section will be considered to calculate 55 percent of your total exam score.

The writing section focuses on three key composition areas: synthesis, rhetorical analysis, and argument. You will be expected to read multiple passages and refer to the texts to form a single, cohesive argument for your thesis. You will also review nonfiction works to analyze how the author’s word choice affected the overall meaning of the piece. Finally, you will be expected to craft a written argument, with supporting evidence, in response to a specified topic.

The trickiest part about the free-response section is that you must allocate your time appropriately between the three questions. Here is a technique that gives you the best chance of creating quality responses:

1. Read all of the questions at least once.

2. Don’t necessarily answer them in the order they are presented.

3. Start with the piece that seems the easiest to you and work until it is completed.

4. Go to the second easiest piece and finish it.

5. Leave the most challenging piece until the end.

Here’s the deal. This technique helps you build confidence by starting with the area in which you are most comfortable. Additionally, you will likely finish this one quickly in comparison to the others. The second piece may be more challenging, but you are more apt to leave a quality answer than with the third section. Since the most difficult part is the last, you can use all of your remaining time to work on that essay. You may even have more time than you would have initially assumed if you finished the other two pieces faster than you anticipated.


The AP® English review will focus on nonfiction works written in a variety of styles. The features texts can include works across multiple eras as well as a wide selection of topics. The focus will be on critical thinking in regards to how certain features of the texts affect the tone and effectiveness of the work.

The reading and writing assignments are designed to advance your vocabulary and writing skills. It will promote a college-level understanding of the use of language in analytical and research-based works with or without an argumentative tone.

Group discussion may be encouraged to examine works from multiple points-of-view. Further, you may be given assignments designed to challenge another person’s point-of-view on a subject, similar to staging a debate.

Skills Required

If you want to flourish in AP® English, you will need a suitable reading and writing level for the associated work. Often, this includes an advanced vocabulary and a solid understanding of the structures of selected written works.

Analytical and critical thinking skills are also essential, as well as the ability to back arguments with facts. Knowledge of current events can be helpful in crafting arguments based on current sentiment.

Is AP® English Language Worth it?

One of the benefits of taking AP® English courses is that you will be better prepared for the demands of college. Not only will you be introduced to college-level concepts, but you will have the opportunity to build upon them.

Were you hoping for more? Well, here is the best part. By completing the AP® English Language and Composition course, you will be prepared to take the corresponding AP® exam. If you score a 3 or better on the exam, you can qualify for college credit. Not only does this help you reach your goals of earning a degree, it can also save you time and money.

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How does it save time? It saves time because it means you will not have to attend that class to graduate. In most cases, introductory English language and composition courses are required for all students. This is true whether you are majoring in English or Zoology. By passing the exam, it is one less class you have to take to earn your degree.

How does it save money? You don’t have to pay for classes you don’t need to attend. Instead, you get credit in the class based on your score, and it goes on your official transcript. This means the credits also transfer if you change schools down the road. Taking an AP® exam is much cheaper than paying for a college course so that you can keep the difference.

If you have an interest in language and writing in general, you will be able to explore new concepts to expand your understanding of the subject. You will be able to improve the quality of your writing and learn to read more critically. You may even find yourself more adept at creating evidence-backed arguments and better prepared for persuasive writing.

Now, for those who are focusing on English as a major, taking AP® English courses can help you create a more solid foundation before you head to college. For those who major in anything else, you may find research papers easier to write. The analytical writing techniques can be applied to the majority of written assignments in college, regardless of the subject. High-quality papers lead to higher quality grades. And who doesn’t want good grades?

If that wasn’t enough, you might also get to explore various current events as topics. You will be able to put your analytical skills to work while reviewing the concerns that face us today. This can help you further your understanding of challenges across the country, and across the globe.

During your studies, you will also be introduced to historical topics through a selection of nonfiction texts. This can help provide a deeper understanding of the sentiment of the time, and provide context for past events. It may even help you excel in your history classes.

Even if you think AP® English Language and Composition sounds difficult, it can certainly be worth the effort. You may be able to earn college credit, saving you time and money when you pursue your degree, and can learn skills that can help you in all of your future coursework. That sounds like a good deal to me.

Next Steps

If taking the AP® English Language class sounds like the right move to you, you will want to sign up for the class. You can speak with your administrator or guidance counselor to see if you can attend the class. Even though the CollegeBoard lists no prerequisites that do not mean your school does not have minimum standards to qualify.

While most schools offer the class, smaller institutions may not have the ability to do so. This can be due to a lack in the number of available teachers as well as low interest in the subject among students. If that is the case, speak with administrators and English teachers to see if a self-study course may be appropriate. They may be able to create a custom AP® English study guide to help you properly direct your efforts.

In cases where taking a course is not an option, you can still take the exam. While this may be a challenging approach, you can work on your own to cover the material. Additionally, scoring guidelines for free-response questions are available. This allows you to write practice essays and review them in the same way the exams are scored. Not only can this help you become comfortable with the format, but it also allows you to train yourself to draft responses with the highest score in mind.

After all of this, doesn’t it sound like the AP® English Language course is the right move? You can advance your writing skills in a way that can benefit all of your future coursework and earn college credits before leaving high school. Not only that, but you can save yourself money by lowering the total amount of tuition it will take to graduate. Doesn’t that sound like a great deal? I think it does, and so do thousands of other students every year. Don’t hold yourself back when you can be earning college credit now. Schedule your class today.

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Is AP® English Language Hard? | ›

The AP® English Language and Composition exam is a difficult test, but with the right amount of practice, preparation, and hard work, it is possible to score a 5.

Is the AP English Language exam hard? ›

The AP® English Language exam is considered average in terms of its difficulty level. This exam has a slightly lower-than-average passing rate, but has a higher passing rate than many other reading and writing-intensive courses.

What is the hardest part of AP Lang? ›

Academic Challenges in AP® English Language

Even though writing is a fundamental component of the course, AP® English's difficulty resides in the reading level required. You will need to be able to employ critical thinking skills to answer fundamental questions regarding the composition of specified works.

What is the pass rate for AP English? ›

The Pass Rate
AP Class/ExamPass Rate (3 or Higher)Perfect Score (5)
AP English Literature and Composition60.1%9.3%
All AP Classes71.1%19.6%

How hard is it to get a 5 on AP Lang? ›

To give you a sense of the difficulty, in 2021, on 9.1% of test takers earned a 5, although 22.9% and 25.8% scored a 4 and 3 respectively. Still, the AP Lang exam is significantly easier that the AP Lit exam, for which only 4.9% of students earned a 5.

What happens if you fail AP English? ›

What happens if you fail an AP exam? If you fail an AP exam, you will not receive college credit for that course. The good news is that a failed exam does not affect your GPA. In addition, you can retake the AP exam the next year.

What is the easiest AP language course? ›

Easiest AP exams by pass rate
  • AP French Language.
  • AP Government & Politics.
  • AP Italian Language.
  • AP Japanese Language.
  • AP Physics C Mechanics.
  • AP Research.
  • AP Seminar.
  • AP Spanish Language.
Jan 13, 2023

What is the most failed AP exam? ›

At many high schools, AP Physics is notorious for its difficulty level. In addition, it has the lowest overall pass rate of any AP exam.

How many people fail the AP Lang exam? ›

The Pass Rate
AP Class/ExamPass Rate (3 or Higher)Perfect Score (5)
AP English Language and Composition62.1%12.6%
All AP Classes71.13%19.57%
Mar 3, 2022

What AP class has the highest passing rate? ›

It's important to keep these factors in mind as you consider the following list of AP classes, ranked according to their passing rates:
  • Chinese Language and Culture: 88.2%
  • Art and Design: 86.2%
  • Seminar: 85.0%
  • Research: 81.5%
  • Spanish Language and Culture: 80.0%
  • Calculus BC: 75.2%
  • Japanese Language and Culture: 74.3%
Oct 31, 2022

Are AP tests curved? ›

In other words, AP scores are not graded on a curve but instead calculated specifically to reflect consistency in scoring from year to year.

Should I take 5 AP classes senior year? ›

This is the big year for all levels of student.

Depending on what kind of school you want to go to, you should be taking between 3 and 5 AP® classes this year. You will need to manage your time well, however, as you also need to study for the SAT® or ACT® during this time.

Should I take AP English 3? ›

A: Absolutely! Most students who take AP English don't go on to major in English. However, reading and writing well are skills you will use in nearly all college courses, not to mention organizational skills and time management. Students who take AP courses tend to perform better in college regardless of their major.

How hard is the AP English Literature exam? ›

How Difficult Is AP Literature – As Rated By Class Alumnae. AP English Literature is considered very hard, with class alumnae rating it 7.5/10 for overall difficulty, making it the 2nd-most-difficult out of the 28 large AP classes surveyed.

Is AP English worth taking? ›

Most students who take AP English don't go on to major in English. However, reading and writing well are skills you will use in nearly all college courses, not to mention organizational skills and time management. Students who take AP courses tend to perform better in college regardless of their major.

Are AP English classes worth it? ›

While many may complain about the difficulty of the workload throughout the year, AP Lang is very rewarding for students who complete the course. You'll find that this course will help you out beyond high school. So we vote yes!


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